If you're like most weekend warriors, your body is an accident waiting to happen. That's because the average guy is hamstrung with weaknesses that can lead to serious injuries. Multiply that risk by 10 if you play sports. Trouble is, your body is a lot like a woman: It doesn't always provide direct feedback. That's why I've created the MF Diagnostic Test®. It's a series of self-tests designed to evaluate the most common problem areas for guys. In just 10 minutes, you'll find out how performance-ready your body really is.
And in case you're disappointed, I've included all the tools you need to fix it yourself. That'll keep you playing at the top of your game, injury-free, all year long--whether you need a tuneup or a total-body overhaul.
HOW TO IMPROVE: CORE STABILITY
Your core muscles, the ones that support your abdomen, spine, hips, and pelvis, are critical in almost every sport. That's because they provide spinal stability, which allows you to generate more power--a combination of strength and speed--for quick changes of direction and faster body rotation, the key ingredients for long drives in golf and home-run swings in baseball and softball.
The limiting factor for core strength is usually the transverse abdominis, a deep abdominal muscle. The typical reason: abdominal training built around crunches, whose limited range of motion--you lift only your head and shoulders off the floor--doesn't force you to activate the transverse abdominis.
Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent 90 degrees and your feet flat. Hold your arms straight at your sides with your palms down and keep them parallel with the floor through-out the entire move.
1. Your feet must remain flat on the floor during the entire move.
2. Slowly raise your upper body by rounding your spine. Take a full five seconds to sit all the way up.
3. Pause for one second, then take five seconds to lower your body back to the floor.
You pass if:
+ You can complete 10 full reps without the use of momentum. (No cheating.)
You fail if:
- You're not able to do at least 10 reps. The problem is that your abs are essentially "locking up" after the first 30 degrees of the range of motion--the highest point you lift your body during a crunch.
You need to train with exercises that work your transverse abdominis, two days a week at the beginning of your workout. That prioritizes the muscle and allows you to work it harder because it's fresh. Follow the directions here for the "Plank" and "Slow Sit-up," performing the moves in that order.
HOW TO IMPROVE: SHOULDER STABILITY
The stability of your shoulders is critical in preventing repetitive-stress injuries that occur in sports--for instance, when you're throwing a baseball or hitting a forehand in tennis. A weak network of muscles that stabilize your shoulders can lead to joint, rotator-cuff, and nerve damage.
Poor shoulder stability can be caused by a lack of development of the muscles around the shoulder, or an overdevelopment of muscles that oppose them. So guys who lift weights regularly are as much at risk as guys who don't work out at all.